Monday, June 30, 2014

Companies Can Reject Contraception Mandate; High Court Ruling Maims Obama's Health Care

In a 5-4 decision today (June 30, 2014), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that for-profit companies can cite religious convictions to opt out of the contraception mandate that would have required all businesses to provide free contraceptives -- including those that can cause abortion -- to their employees.

The decision represents a huge blow to President Obama's "Affordable Health Care" law, and a victory for hundreds of businesses that have claimed that the mandate would require them to violate their belief that all life is sacred.

The ruling came in favor of two family-held companies -- Hobby Lobby, owned by the Green family, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, owned by the Hahn family -- both of whom had said that the mandate would represent an unacceptable moral obstacle to their businesses.

"This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only," said David Green when his company first filed suit to stop the mandate -- "the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution."

High Court Rules Against Unions' Forced Dues; Rules Forced Membership Violates 1st Amend.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today (June 30, 2014) in "Harris v. Quinn" that non-members of public unions cannot be forced to pay dues, The Daily Beast website reports.

An Illinois in-home health care worker sued the state over compulsory union dues.

The state considers her a public employee because her salary is paid with Medicaid funds, which makes her a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Pamela Harris sued Illinois and SEIU, saying the union dues are tantamount to forced association and forced speech (prohibited by the First Amendment).

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that "partial public employees" like Harris cannot be required to contribute union dues.

Bodies of 3 Kidnapped Israeli Teens Are Found; Killed Shortly After They Were Abducted June 12

The bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens have been found shot to death in a field north of Hebron, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (June 30, 2014).

The families of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach have been notified of the discovery.

It is believed that the bodies were dumped in haste and covered quickly. The teens were reportedly killed shortly after they were abducted on June 12.

The teens were last seen trying to get rides home from a junction in Gush Etzion -- a bloc of settlements located south of Jerusalem. Naftali Frenkel -- one of the teens -- was a dual American-Israeli citizen.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Al-Qaida Says Seized Land Is Now an Islamic State; Labels Taken Syrian, Iraqi Land "The Islamic State"

The al-Qaida breakaway group that has seized much of northern Syria and huge tracks of neighboring Iraq formally declared the creation of an Islamic state today (June 29, 2014), the Associated Press website reports.

The spokesman for the Islamic States of Iraq and the Levant, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, made the announcement in an audio statement posted online. Islamic extremists have long dreamed of recreating the Islamic state -- or caliphate -- that ruled over the Middle East for hundreds of years.

Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said the group's chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is the new leader -- or caliph -- of the Islamic State. He called on those living in the areas under the organization's control to swear allegiance to al-Baghdadi and support him.

Al-Adnani added that with the creation of the caliphate, the group was changing its name to just the Islamic State, dropping the mention of Iraq and the Levant.

Friday, June 27, 2014

High Court: Obama's Selections for NLRB Illegal; Ignored Senate Confirmation as Required by Law

The Supreme Court yesterday limited the president's power to fill high-level vacancies with temporary appointments, ruling in favor of Senate Republicans in their partisan clash with President Barack Obama, the Associated Press website reports today (June 27, 2014).

The high court's first-ever case involving the Constitution's recess appointments clause ended in a unanimous decision holding that Obama's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in 2012 -- without Senate confirmation -- were illegal. Obama invoked the Constitutional provision giving the president the power to make temporary appointments when the Senate is in recess.

But the court ruled that the Senate was not actually in a formal recess when Obama acted. In fact, Justice Stephen Breyer -- who wrote the unanimous opinion -- said that a congressional break must last at least 10 days to be considered a recess under the Constitution.

This is the third recent serious blow to Obama's dictatorial and unconstitutional use of his power of his position of U.S. president. Earlier this week, it was revealed that South Dakota's Republican Party adopted a resolution to impeach Obama for his unconstitutional rule of the nation, and also this week, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner filed a lawsuit against Obama's repeated violation of his oath of office as well as his neglect of referring matters to Congress when required to do so by law. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cath. Priest Charged with Seeking Sexual Favors; Sought Sex from Migrants to Help Them Get Visas

The Catholic Church in Italy is facing an embarrassing scandal after the arrest of a priest accused of demanding sexual favors from immigrants seeking political asylum in Sicily, the Christian Headlines website reports today (June 26, 2014).

The Rev. Sergio Librizzi -- who was also the director of the Catholic charity Caritas in the Sicilian city of Trapani -- was arrested at his parish on June 24 as he was preparing for Mass.

Prosecutors charge that Librizzi sought sexual favors from newly arrived migrants fleeing the Middle East and Africa in exchange for help with residency visas, as well as from the poor who sought help from the charity.

The priest's arrest is especially embarrassing for the church given Pope Francis' strong stand in support of the immigrants flooding the area. Soon after his election last year, Francis' first pastoral visit outside Rome was to the island of Lampedusa -- near Sicily -- where he called for greater solidarity and an end to the "global indifference" over refugees.

High Court Rejects Mass. Abortion Buffer Zones; They Violate 1st Amend.,Limit Public Way Access

In a huge victory for pro-life activists, the U.S. Supreme Court today (June 26, 2014) unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that established a buffer zone around abortion clinics, ruling it "inconsistent with the First Amendment," the Christian Newswire website reports.

The high court ruled that the buffer zone violated the First Amendment because it "restricts access to 'public way[s]' and 'sidewalk[s],' places that have traditionally been open for speech activities."

"These buffer zones have not only denied pro-life activists their right to speak, but have also denied women the right to hear information about abortion that could be wanted and helpful to them in making a decision that will affect the rest of their lives," said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue.

Newman added, "We are very pleased with today's ruling that upholds our precious First Amendment rights to speak out in the public forum without interference from the abortion cartel. We know that lives will be saved as a result of this decision."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Swastikas Are Spray-Painted on Philly Synagogue; Rabbi: Renews Awful Past of Holocaust Survivors

A Philadelphia synagogue has been targeted with anti-Semitic vandalism, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (June 25, 2014).

Members of the Congregations of Ner Zedek discovered two large swastikas spray-painted on the building when they arrived on June 23 for daily morning prayers.

In recent weeks, a rock was thrown through a glass panel on the synagogue door. Also, swastikas were spray-painted on the building -- located in northeast Philadelphia -- a few years ago.

"As we know, unfortunately, in the world we live in, although we all want to try and get along with each other, it doesn't always happen that way," said Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, the Conservative synagogue's spiritual leader. "I have a number of Holocaust survivors here in my congregation, and if they see something like this, of course it brings back all sorts of terrible memories of what they went through."

Boehner Files a Power Abuse Suit Against Obama; Says Obama Abused Power with Executive Actions

Asserting that President Obama has repeatedly attempted "to erode the power of the Legislative Branch" of government, House Speaker John Boehner announced today that he will file suit against Obama over his alleged abuse of executive power, the Fox News website reports.

"This is not about impeachment -- it's about him faithfully executing the laws of this country," Boehner said.

The speaker alleged that the president not only has ignored the law but also "brags about it," decrying what he described as "arrogance and incompetence."

Boehner had been weighing such a lawsuit in recent days, over concerns that Obama exceeded his constitutional authority with executive actions. Republicans have voiced frustration with Obama's second-term "pen and phone" strategy of pursuing policy changes without Congress -- particularly environmental rules via the Environmental Protection Agency. Republicans also complained about numerous unilateral changes to the implementation of ObamaCare.

Federal Judge Rules U.S. No-Fly List Is Unconst.; Those Blocked from Flight Can't Challenge Ruling

A federal judge ruled yesterday that the U.S. government's no-fly list -- which bans people accused of terrorism from commercial flights -- violates their constitutional rights, because it gives them no meaningful way to contest that decision, the Reuters website reports today (June 25, 2014).

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown -- ruling on a lawsuit filed in federal court in Oregon by 13 Muslim Americans who were branded with the no-fly status -- ordered the government to come up with new procedures that allow people on the no-fly list to challenge that designation.

"Accordingly, on this record the court concludes plaintiffs inclusion on the no-fly list constitutes a significant deprivation of their liberty interests in international travel," Brown said.

The 13 Muslim plaintiffs -- four of whom are veterans of the U.S. military -- deny they have links to terrorism and say they only learned of their no-fly status when they arrived at an airport and were blocked from boarding a flight.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Green Beret Officer Dismissed Due to Love Affair; Maj. Jim Gant Lived with Reporter in Afghanistan

A Special Forces commander was quietly forced to leave the U.S. Army after he admitted to having a love affair with a Washington Post war correspondent, who quit her job to secretly live with him for almost a year in one of the most dangerous combat outposts in Afghanistan, the Yahoo News website reports today (June 24, 2014).

U.S. Army Special Operations Command never publicly disclosed that highly-decorated Green Beret Major Jim Gant was relieved of command at the end of a harrowing 22 months in combat in March 2012.

His commanders charged in confidential files that he had "indulged in a self-created fantasy world" of booze, pain pills, and sex in a tribal village deep in Taliban and al Qaeda country with his "wife," journalist Ann Scott Tyson.

"We did fall in love, I would say over the course of about a week," Tyson told ABC News in an interview, recalling that Gant asked her to marry him within a few days of meeting each other in 2010. She laughed him off at first, but eventually he won her over.

UN: More Than 1,075 Killed in Last 17 Days in Iraq; ISIS Militants Control Major Areas of 5 Provinces

The United Nations said today (June 24, 2014) that more than 1,075 People -- at least three-quarters of them civilians -- were killed so far this month in Iraq, as Islamist militants swept through large swaths of northern and western Iraq, the Times of India website reports.

Another 658 people were injured in the country in the 17 days from June 5 to 22, Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN human rights office told reporters in Geneva.

He added the numbers "should be viewed very much as a minimum." At least 757 civilians were killed and another 599 injured in the provinces of Nineveh, Diyala, and Salah al-Din, he said.

At least 318 more people -- not all civilians -- had been killed and 590 injured in Baghdad and areas in the south, "many of them as a result of at least six separate vehicle-borne bombs," he said. Militants led by jihadists from ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have since early June overrun major areas of five provinces and driven to less than 60 miles from Baghdad.

Monday, June 23, 2014

S. Dakota GOP OKs Resolution to Impeach Obama; Often Violated Oath of Office, Bypassed Congress

The Republican Party of South Dakota has approved a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Obama, citing multiple violations of his oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution and faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress, The New American website reports today (June 23, 2014).

The measure -- which was accepted by delegates at the state GOP convention on June 21 -- comes amid a growing national movement to remove Obama from power, or at least take urgent measures to rein in his lawlessness. Supporters of the effort across America celebrated the move as an important milestone in restoring accountability and constitutional government.

With the growing stench of scandal swirling around the administration, supporters of the resolution said the time has come to hold Obama accountable. Among other crimes, misdemeanors, and oath violations cited in the measure were: The unlawful release of five Taliban leaders in exchange for U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, Obama's "willful" lie about individuals being allowed to keep their health insurance under ObamaCare, and the avalanche of recent executive decrees on "climate change" to unilaterally impose energy rationing on America.

"The president has ordered Federal Agencies to enact rules (laws) that threaten the security of the people of this great nation (EPA regulations) bypassing Congress and usurping its authority," the resolution states. "The president has abused his executive privilege usurping his authority as decided by numerous federal courts... The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are very clear on the authority of the President and the Federal Government, and when they violate their oath it is the right, it is the duty of the American people to act."

Sudan Woman Freed from Prison,Death Sentence; Was Sentenced to Die for Not Converting to Islam

Meriam Ibrahim -- a woman sentenced to death after being convicted of apostasy and adultery -- was released from prison and her death sentence was overturned today (June 23, 2014), the Worthy News website reports.

Ibrahim -- a practicing physician in Western Sudan -- is married to Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese Christian. But as a Sudanese, Ibrahim is considered a Muslim by birth through her father's Islamic faith, making her marriage to a Christian illegal.

According to sharia (Islamic law), any Muslim woman who marries a non-Muslim man commits adultery; therefore, any children that arise from that marriage are illegitimate in the eyes of Islam. Ibrahim gave birth to a baby girl while in prison, and has a two-year-old son.

Last May, Judge Abbas Al-Khalifa told Meriam, "We gave you three days to recant, but you insist on not returning to Islam -- I sentence you to be hanged," sparking international outrage. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Man Rapes,Kills Pakistani Girl Who Refused Sex; Wanted His Girlfriend to Have Sex with 2 Friends

The boyfriend of a 20-year-old woman found hanging from a tree in the central city of Layyah in Pakistan has been arrested after confessing that he raped and murdered her, the Big News Network website reports today (June 22, 2014).

The murder of Muzammil Bibi is similar to a series of recent sex crimes that have sparked public outcry and protests across the border in India.

According to the woman's boyfriend -- named by Pakistani police as Muhammad Saqib -- he raped and killed her after she refused to have sex with two of his friends. He told police he hung her from the tree in order to make her death look like a suicide.

Police are investigating whether she was also raped by the two other men, who remain at large and are the subjects of a police manhunt. 

Israeli Child Killed,Two Wounded in Syrian Attack; Anti-Tank Missile Fired by Syria on Golan Heights

Israel has filed a complaint with the United Nations over a cross-border attack on the Golan Heights today (June 22, 2014) that killed one Israeli child and wounded two adults, according to the Jewish Press website.

One 13-year-old boy, an Israeli citizen named Mohammad Karake from the town of Arrabe -- an Arab village in the Galilee -- was killed by an explosion next to the Syrian border, apparently caused by an anti-tank missile. Karake's father, a civilian contractor for the Ministry of Defense, was critically wounded and the third was lightly wounded.

"This is not a case of errant fire, but of an intentional attack," said IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. "The IDF will continue to watch the northern border and react to developments in the field accordingly."

The explosion coincided with rising tensions in Judea and Samaria, where the massive manhunt of three Israeli kidnapped teenage boys is now in its ninth day.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pope Excommunicates Mobsters from RC Church; Says Mafia's Evil Path Isn't Worthy of God's Love

Brushing aside worries about his health and safety, Pope Francis traveled to the heart of mob territory today (June 21, 2014) to comfort the family of a three-year-old boy gunned down in a January shootout, and declared that all Italian mobsters are automatically excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church, the USA Today website reports.

The underdeveloped Calabria region of Italy that the pope visited is the power base of the 'Ndrangheta -- a global drug-trafficking syndicate that enriches itself by extorting businesses and infiltrating public-works contracts.

During his homily at an outdoor Mass today, Francis denounced the 'Ndrangheta for what he called its "adoration of evil and contempt for the common good."

"Those who go down the evil path, as the Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated," the pope asserted. This is the first time in history that a pope has excommunicated the mafia from the Catholic Church -- a clear illustration of Pope Francis' peerless and fearless papal courage in addressing Christian issues.

Ex-Bergdahl Roommate Asserts He Was a Traitor; Obama Knew He Deserted Unit, Joined Taliban

The former roommate of Bowe Bergdahl -- the U.S. Army sergeant traded for five Taliban militants -- says the U.S. government knew very well that he was a traitor when they were making the controversial swap of terrorists, the Newsmax website reports today (June 21, 2014).

"They have all the documentation on it. The administration knew he deserted, they knew he wasn't a hero," retired Army Specialist Cody Full told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV. He added, "They knew he wasn't captured on a battlefield or lagged behind on a patrol. They knew he went out and deserted on his own."

Bergdahl was held captive in Afghanistan by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network from June 2009 until May 2014.

He was traded for five high-ranking Taliban members who were being held at Guantanamo Bay -- a secret deal made by President Obama without the consultation and approval of Congress as required by law.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Saudi King Visits New Egyptian President al-Sisi; Two Leaders Oppose Spread of Islamic Extremism

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah stopped in Cairo late today (June 20, 2014) to meet with Egypt's new president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to show his strong support through a symbolic but brief visit, according to the Newsmax World website.

The 90-year-old monarch -- on his way home from Morocco -- did not leave his plane, which was on the ground at Cairo airport for just over an hour. Sisi and his delegation were on board for just over 30 minutes.

Abdullah's advanced age and frail health mean he rarely travels on state business, so even the short visit was a clear sign of how he has positioned himself as Sisi's leading Arab ally.

Egypt's official news agency reported that the talks covered the importance of the two nations working together to address regional challenges, a sign of how the Gulf monarchy sees Cairo as a crucial partner against the rapid rise of Islamic extremism.

Pope Francis Warns of "Evil" of Drug Addiction; Says Drugs Like Marijuana Must Not Be Legalized

Pope Francis emphatically warned today (June 20, 2014) against legalizing drugs, calling addiction an "evil" which he said had to be resisted without compromise, the Reuters website reports.

Setting himself against the trend in several western countries -- including the United States -- to allow the use of so-called soft drugs like marijuana, Francis said narcotics were putting more and more young people in danger.

"Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding of compromise," he said in remarks to a drug enforcement conference in Rome.

The pope's view on drugs came a day before he is due to visit Italy's Calabria -- home of the powerful Ndrangheta mafia -- which controls a significant share of the global trade in illegal narcotics.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Separatists Fighting in Ukraine Take Heavy Losses; Russia Moves Its Troops to Ukraine Border Again

Intense fighting broke out in Eastern Ukraine today (June 19, 2014), with separatists saying they were outgunned and taking heavy losses, according to the Newser website.

"We beat off the first attack and destroyed one tank," said a separatist. "But it is difficult to take on 20 tanks."

Government forces said the fighting broke out when rebels refused to lay down their weapons and observe the ceasefire.

Meanwhile, Russia has moved many of its troops back to the Ukraine border, according to NATO. This is believed to have been sparked by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's announcement that he would sign a pivotal association agreement with the EU (European Union) on June 27.

Presbyterian Church Affirms Same-Sex Marriage; Majority of 172 Presbyteries Must OK It to Be Law

The 221st General Assembly of the nearly two million-member Presbyterian Church (USA) made history today (June 19, 2014), as it affirmed the marriages of same-sex couples, the Religion News website reports.

The Assembly voted by more than 70 percent to update the language about marriage from a "man and a woman" to "two persons" in the PC (USA) constitution.

It will only become church law, if approved by a majority of 172 presbyteries. Then all couples can turn to their home churches to ask to be married.

"The Church affirmed all its faithful members today. This vote is an answer to many prayers for the Church to recognize love between committed same-sex couples," said Alex McNeill, Executive Director, More Light Presbyterians. "We will keep praying that the majority of our 172 presbyteries will confirm that all loving couples can turn to their churches when they are ready to be married."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Churches in Sicily House Many African Migrants; Churches Replace Pews with Beds to Aid Migrants

Several churches on the Italian island of Sicily have hastily replaced pews with beds in a bid to accommodate the large stream of migrants currently fleeing Africa and the Middle East, the Euro News website reports today (June 18, 2014).

On June 14 over 1,800 people were rescued and brought to shore, after making the perilous boat trip from Africa.

Father Rosario Francolino spoke about the local efforts being made amidst the growing crisis: "We've substituted the altar with beds. I think this is the most beautiful mass that this community could celebrate in these days. Palermo's community is alive to events and showing great interest."

The church alone has received 700 migrants since June 15.

550 Egyptian Christian Girls Abducted Since 2011; Girls Are Forced to Adopt Islam, Marry Captors

A new report from the Association of Victims of Abduction and Forced Disappearance (AVAFD) states that more than 550 Egyptian Christian women and girls have been kidnapped since 2011. The kidnapped women are then forced to adopt Islam and marry their captors, the Christian Headlines website reports today (June 18, 2014).

The AVAFD reported that the women's ages ranged from 14 to 40. Many of the kidnapped women are raped; many are not even sought after by police. Authorities instead claim that the women left their families by choice.

Police did not get involved with 14-year-old Nadia Makram's case, even though her family told police the name of her captor.

AVAFD founder, Ebram Louis, said that kidnappings have increased in Egypt since Hosni Mubarak fell from power three years ago. "Before the revolution, five or six girls would disappear each month. Now the average is 15."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Iraqi Christians Flee Homes Amid ISIL Butchering; Chaos Ruins Regions of Christianity's Earliest Days

Thousands of Iraqi Christians are fleeing to the Nineveh plain and the largely autonomous region of Kurdistan after fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) pillaged the city of Mosul and a broad swath of the country during the past week, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (June 17, 2014).

The chaos is destroying Chaldean, Armenian, and Assyrian communities that date back to Christianity's earliest days.

Iraq was estimated to have more than one million Christians before the U.S.-led invasion and toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Today, church officials estimate only 450,000 Christians remain within Iraq's borders.

Islamist militants have targeted Christians and bombed churches in repeated waves in Baghdad and northern Iraq during the past decade.

Pope Blasts Those Getting Rich by Speculation; Calls on Rich to Use Investments for Humanity

Pope Francis yesterday denounced those getting rich through speculation in financial markets, calling on them to use their investments for the good of humanity, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (June 17, 2014).

"It is increasingly intolerable that financial markets are shaping the destiny of peoples rather than serving their needs, or that the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences," he said.

The pope -- who has said he wants to create "a poor church for the poor" -- has often spoken out against the "idolatry of money" since his election last year.

The 77-year-old said, "It is important that ethics once again play its due part in the world of finance" and that markets should "serve the interests of peoples and the common good of humanity."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Barrel Bomb Attacks Kill Some 30 People in Syria; Western Powers Condemned Use of Barrel Bombs

At least 30 people have died as a result of two barrel bomb attacks today (June 16, 2014) on Aleppo in northern Syria, the Euro News website reports.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, helicopters dropped the improvised explosives in the al-Sukkari neighborhood.

At least one woman and two children were among the dead. With the large number of people seriously injured in the attack, the death toll is expected to rise.

Western powers have condemned the use of barrel bombs -- which often contain illegal deadly chemicals -- as a war crime, but the government continues to use them during Syria's civil war.  

Pope Criticizes Europe for Being a "Tired" Society; Due to Its Low Birth Rates and Floundering Youth

Pope Francis yesterday criticized Europe for becoming what he called "tired" because of its low birth rates and the increasing numbers of young people who neither work nor study, the Deseret News website reports today (June 16, 2014).

Francis delivered the harsh assessment as he visited an ancient Rome basilica in Trastevere, a traditionally working-class neighborhood that is also home to a Catholic organization, Sant'Egidio Community, whose volunteers help the elderly, immigrants, and other needy.

Francis said Europe often "discards" both its elderly, by shunting them aside, and its young, by failing to provide work.

"A people which doesn't care for its elderly, which doesn't take care of its young people, is a people without a future, a people without hope," Francis said. He added, by helping both young and old, "you begin to renew society."

Sunday, June 15, 2014

ISIL Butchers Kill 1,700 Iraqis, Now in Baghdad; US Marines, Soldiers Also Being Sent to Baghdad

The terrorist group ISIL (Islamic State of the Levant) arrived in Baghdad today (June 15, 2014) -- setting off multiple explosions in the area -- the Homeland Security website reports.

The U.S. is evacuating some embassy staff in Baghdad, but "will remain fully equipped to handle its national security mission there," said U.S. officials. ISIL has massacred 1,700 captured Iraqi soldiers during the past few days, and has released a video of the barbaric murders. 

ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi directed a threat statement at the United States: "Soon we will be in direct confrontation and the sons of Islam have prepared for such a day."

Additional airlift assets and U.S. Marines and Army soldiers are being sent to Baghdad. Other embassies have been asked to evacuate Baghdad by the Iraqi government.

Canada Rips PA Kidnapping of Three Israeli Teens; Israelis Agitated Obama Has Not Yet Condemned It

Canada has firmly condemned last week's Palestinian Authority (PA) terrorist kidnapping of three teenage boys in Israel, but U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to say a word about the attack -- even though one of the hostages is an American citizen -- the Jewish Press website reports today (June 15, 2014).

The boys are students at the Makor Chaim yeshiva high school at Kfar Etzion in Gush Etzion. They were apparently abducted somewhere near the Judean town of Alon Shevut, about 15 minutes south of Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority Unity Government Arabs started passing out candies and other sweets in the streets of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza to celebrate the attack, after hearing about the kidnapping.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird issued a statement yesterday strongly condemning the kidnapping and reminding the PA in no uncertain terms that its paramilitary forces were trained, equipped, and armed by Canada and the United States.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Abp. of Canterbury to Meet with Pope on June 16; Two Will Discuss Slavery and Human Trafficking

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will meet Pope Francis on June 16 in Rome to discuss the joint modern slavery and human trafficking initiative the two launched on March 17, 2014, the Vatican Insider website reports today (June 14, 2014).

In March, a group of religious leaders signed a joint declaration inaugurating the Global Freedom Network (GFN).

According to the signatories, a "joint effort" is needed to put an end to "the physical, economic, and sexual exploitation of men, women, and children" which "condemns 30 million people to dehumanization and degradation."

During his stay, the Archbishop of Canterbury will visit the Anglican Center in Rome and hear about the new international Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission website, which will be launched at this time.

Ukraine Separatists Down Army Plane, Killing 49; President Poroshenko Declares "Day of Mourning"

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has declared a "day of mourning" for those killed in the deadliest attack on national troops since the pro-Russian uprising began in the country's south and east, the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website reports today (June 14, 2014).

Officials said 49 people -- 40 troops and nine crew members -- perished when a Ukrainian army  transport aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile last night as it approached Luhansk airport, where heavily armed separatists control much of the area.

Poroshenko said in his statement that the day of mourning, June 15, marks "a great loss not only for the families of the victims but also for the whole country. Ukraine is in sorrow, but we strongly continue the struggle for peace."

The escalation in fighting comes after weeks of images of Russian gunmen crossing the border and amid fresh allegations by the United States that "separatists in eastern Ukraine have acquired heavy weapons and military equipment from Russia, including Russian tanks and multiple rocket launchers."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Islamic Caliphate Created Across Syria, N. Iraq; Due to Obama's Neglect of Syrian, Iraqi Support

The Obama administration's failure to secure a status-of-forces agreement with the government of Iraq, or to take decisive action in Syria to end its civil war, has provided al-Qaida an opportunity to fulfill its dream of creating a new Islamic Caliphate governed under Sharia law -- a direct threat to U.S. national security -- the Worthy News website reports today (June 13, 2014).

Al-Qaida affiliated terrorists now control an area in Eastern Syria all the way through parts of Western and now Northern Iraq. They have subjected the locals in the areas they control to Sharia law and have engaged in acts of violent barbarism.

Moreover, they have beheaded locals for failing to adhere to their strict interpretation of Sunni Islam and have set up training camps to train additional terrorists to conduct operations and external attacks. This is exactly what al-Qaida has always wanted, and the Obama administration is allowing them to have it.

Why? Because the Obama administration failed to sign a status-of-forces agreement with the government of Iraq that would have allowed for a stay-behind counter-terrorism force to maintain security gains and kill al-Qaida terrorists while Iraq got on its feet.

Human Rights Atty. Faces Mormon Church Exile; Cried for Ordination of Women in Mormon Church

An international human rights lawyer -- who is also a Mormon -- is facing excommunication for advocating the ordination of women. Kate Kelly is founder of Ordained Women and has been on a mission since 2013 to confront gender inequality in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Christian Headlines website reports today (June 13, 2014).

Kelly was recently informed by the bishop of her congregation in Virginia that she is to appear for a disciplinary hearing to discuss her removal from the fold.

"Disciplining arbitrarily and unfairly one person is not going to stop this movement," Kelly said.

Church officials maintain Kelly's group is not representative of a majority of Mormons. "Some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs," church leaders said in a statement. "This saddens leaders and fellow members."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Danish Churches to Perform Same-Sex Marriages; Some Priests Can Refuse to Wed Gays,Others Will

The nation of Denmark has voted to force churches in the established Evangelical Lutheran Church to perform same-sex "marriage" ceremonies inside their sanctuaries, although one-third of all the denomination's priests say they will not participate in such rituals, The New American website reports today (June 12, 2014).

The Danish parliament voted by an overwhelming 85-24 margin to compel churches to carry out unions for same-sex couples that are identical to heterosexual marriage celebrations.

The new law takes effect June 15, 2014. Since 1997, homosexuals have been able to get "married" in a blessing ceremony after the normal church service.

Under the new law, priests may opt out of performing the "wedding" service for theological reasons. However, a bishop must arrange for a replacement.

Russia Sends Three Tanks, Artillery into Ukraine; Ukraine Forces Wreck Some Russian Mil. Vehicles

Ukraine's interior ministry accused Russia today (June 12, 2014) of allowing three tanks and other military vehicles to cross the border into east Ukraine to help pro-Russian separatists there, the CNBC website reports.

Russia denied the accusations, but Reuters correspondents saw three tanks in the border town of Snizhnye in east Ukraine.

"We have observed columns passing with armored personnel carriers, other armored vehicles and artillery pieces, and tanks which, according to our information, came across the border and this morning were in Snizhnye," Ukrainian Interior Minister Arseny Avakov told reporters in Kiev, Ukraine's capital.

Avakov also said Ukrainian forces had destroyed part of the column and fighting between the Russians and Ukrainians is still occurring.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Islamist Radicals Kidnap Scores of Turks in Iraq; Turkey Will Retaliate If Its Citizens Are Harmed

Turkey pledged today (June 11, 2014) to retaliate if dozens of its citizens seized in an attack by Islamist militants in northern Iraq are harmed, the Yahoo News website reports.

Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement today that jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had kidnapped 49 of its citizens at the Mosul consulate and taken them to another part of the city.

"All those involved should know that if our citizens are harmed in any way, they will be the subject of harsh reprisals," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at the United Nations in New York today.

The kidnappings come amid growing concern in Ankara -- the capital of Turkey -- over the rise of radical Islamist groups across the border in war-torn Syria.

Czech Pres. Won't Apologize for Ripping Islam; Said Islam Ideology Is Basis for Anti-Semitism

Czech President Milos Zeman will not apologize for his recent statement linking the Islamic ideology with violence, his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek told the Czech News Agency today (June 11, 2014), reacting to critics' demands that Zeman apologize, the Prague Post website reports.

The apology is claimed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), indignant at the statements Zeman made at the May 27 celebration of the Israeli Independence Day in Prague.

Zeman -- commenting on a previous attack in the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium -- said the Islamic ideology is behind similarly motivated violent attacks.

"I will not be calmed down by statements that it is only small marginal groups. I believe, on the contrary, that this xenophobia and this racism or anti-Semitism stem from the very nature of the ideology, on which these fanatic groups rely," Zeman said.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Push for Married Greek Cath. Priests in US Grows; Church Leaders Ask Vatican to OK Married Priests

Top Catholic and Orthodox church officials in North America are calling on the Vatican to let married men become priests in Greek Catholic (Eastern Rite) churches, the Catholic News website reports today (June 10, 2014).

Eastern Catholic churches are similar to Eastern Orthodox churches, but are loyal to Rome and fall under the Pope's jurisdiction. Like Eastern Orthodox churches, Eastern Rite Catholics have particular liturgies and customs that date back to their origins in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

One of those customs is optional celibacy. While Eastern rite Catholic bishops cannot be married, the priesthood is open to married men. The main exception has been in North America, where a 1929 decree by the Vatican barred married clergy in Eastern rite churches.

The move was spurred by concerns among Catholic leaders of the much larger Catholic Church in the U.S. that having married priests in Eastern Catholic churches would prompt Roman Catholics to demand a similar practice.

The current request to the Vatican for Greek Catholic priests in North America to be allowed to be married may have been sparked by Pope Francis' statement on May 26, 2014 -- while on his flight back to Rome from the Holy Land -- when he told reporters "the door is always open" on the question of Catholic priests being married. 

Israel Chooses Veteran Hard-Liner as President; Reuven Rivlin Opposes a Palestinian Ind. Nation

Israel's parliament today (June 10, 2014) chose Reuven Rivlin -- a veteran nationalist politician and supporter of the Jewish settlement movement -- as the country's next president, putting a man opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state into the ceremonial but influential post, the ABC News website reports.

Rivlin -- a stalwart in the governing Likud Party -- now faces the difficult task of succeeding Shimon Peres, a Nobel  peace laureate who became an all-star on the international stage.

Although the presidency is largely ceremonial, Rivlin's political views could be a liability when he represents Israel overseas. His opposition to Palestinian independence puts him at odds with the international community and Israel's own prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The president of Israel is meant to serve as a unifying figure and moral compass for the country, and Rivlin has said that in contrast to Peres, he would focus on domestic affairs if selected to the post.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ohio Man Jailed for Beating Pregnant Daughter; Beat His 17-Year-Old Child for Refusing Abortion

A 36-year-old Ohio man has been sentenced to 12 months in prison after pleading guilty to fifth-degree domestic violence -- a felony -- for beating his then-17-year-old daughter after she told him she did not want to have an abortion, the Christian Telegraph website reports today (June 9, 2014).

In June 2013, Brian Schultz took his daughter -- then several months pregnant -- to an abortion clinic to set up an appointment for an abortion.

After the daughter said she wanted to keep the child, Schultz and his wife, Renee Schultz, 41, began striking her.

On June 5, 2014, Schultz pleaded guilty to the felony charge. The charges were dropped against his wife, because the victim wanted her to be able to take care of the family's two younger girls.

Egyptians Celebrate al-Sisi's Pres. Inauguration; Feel He Fought Against Aggression, Saved Egypt

Celebrations in Cairo went long into the night after the swearing-in of former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi yesterday as president, the Euro News website reports today (June 9, 2014).

There was a low-key attendance by Western allies. They are more concerned that a crackdown of the Islamist Military Brotherhood movement might be extended to all forms of opposition.

But that was not worrying al-Sisi's supporters in Tahrir Square last night.

"Egypt would otherwise be lost without al-Sisi, said a supporter. "I thank him a lot, and I am very happy, because he stood against the aggression and saved Egypt." The new president has a long to-do list starting with Egypt's economy.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tens of Thousands Attend Rome Gay Pride Parade; Call Upon Italian Govt. to OK Civil Unions for Gays

Tens of thousands took to the streets of Rome yesterday for the city's annual Gay Pride parade and to call on the Italian government to recognize civil unions for same-sex couples, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (June 8, 2014).

The march was held in a party atmosphere, with bright lights and rainbow flags adorning the Via del Corso in the center of the city.

Ignazio Marino -- Rome's left-wing mayor -- opened the procession by repeating his campaign promise to pass legislation allowing civil unions for gay couples.

"We need to put pressure on parliament so Italy can overcome the shame of lagging behind the rest of the European Union," Marino said.

Israeli, Palestinian Presidents Meet at the Vatican; Pray for Peace with Pope, Patriarch Bartholomew

The Israeli and Palestinian presidents began an unprecedented meeting with Pope Francis today (June 8, 2014) to pray together in the hope that the gesture will relaunch the Middle East peace process, the Reuters website reports.

Francis -- who made the surprise invitation to Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas last month during his trip to the Holy Land -- welcomed the two leaders in front of the modest guest house where he has decided to reside after renouncing the spacious papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace.

It was the first public meeting between the two presidents in more than a year and was taking place more than a month after United States-led peace talks collapsed amid bitter mutual recrimination.

The three were accompanied by Patriarch Bartholomew -- spiritual head of the world's Orthodox Christians -- and were then driven together in a white mini-van to what the Vatican has called a "neutral" site in the Vatican gardens with no religious symbols. There, they began to pray for peace in the Middle East.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Greeks Protest at German Embassy on Nazi Crime; Claim Germany Owes Greece $220B in Reparations

Greek and German activists protested outside the German Embassy in Athens today (June 7, 2014) to demand reparations for Nazi crimes committed in Greece during World War II, according to the Newsmax World website.

The demonstration was held on the 70th anniversary of the massacre of 218 civilians in the village of Distomo in central Greece by the Nazis on June 10, 1944.

Holding banners that read "justice and compensation," the group of about 100 protesters called for immediate action from Germany on a cause that has been taken up by pressure groups and opposition figures in Greece since the onset of the financial crisis.

A working group set up by the Greek government estimates that the total amount due to Greece from Germany is $220 billion.

US Support of Palestinian Unity Embitters Israel; Represents Shift in US Policy That Favored Israel

The new Palestinian unity government brought together rivals Hamas and Fatah on June 2nd, but it has opened a divide between long-time allies Israel and the United States, the Forward (Jewish) website reports today (June 7, 2014).

"I'm deeply troubled by the announcement that the United States will work with the Palestinian government backed by Hamas," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview this week. Israel does not recognize the new united Palestinian government, because it considers the Hamas to be a terrorist group.

The Obama administration's announcement this week that it would continue working with and funding the Palestinian Authority under the new Hamas-backed unity government has taken Israel aback. It is significant because it represents a shift in the foreign policy of the United States, which traditionally has supported Israel in Israeli-Palestinian disputes.

Nathan Brown -- a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University -- said Israel's concerns were about more than just the issue of Hamas. "It's clear that the U.S. and Israelis are not really coordinating on the issue," Brown said. "Moving the dispute into public is unusual and it shows how worried Israel is about this development."

Friday, June 6, 2014

Secretary of "National Thought" OKd in Argentina; To Build Networks of Academics for Joint Projects

Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner has created a new unique post: secretary for strategic co-ordination of national thought, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (June 6, 2014).

Opposition leaders immediately derided the initiative, with some bristling over what they see as the post's fascist overtones.

"With a year and a half to go before they leave office, they could have named someone to act instead of think," said Ernesto Sanz, head of the opposition Radical Civic Union.

Ricardo Forster -- a 56-year-old trained philosopher who was named to the post -- said the idea was to "build networks among academics and intellectuals who are thinking about joint projects in Latin America." He added it had nothing to do with trying to inculcate "uniformity of thought."

Taliban Prisoner Release May Fuel Impeachment; Obama Defied Oath of Office, Can Be Impeached

The impeach-Obama movement has been reinvigorated following the prisoner swap deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan that secured Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release from captivity, the All Voices website reports today (June 6, 2014).

Several conservative scholars have called for the impeachment of President Barack Obama since the prisoner swap was announced.

Former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano told a Fox News audience this week that by exchanging high-level prisoners from Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl, Obama committed an impeachable offense of "aiding and abetting terrorism."

The judge also said that since the Taliban prisoners are more likely to go back to being terrorists, "That's why I say the president may well have committed a federal crime by giving material assistance to a terrorist organization."

Napolitano argued that by taking the decision, Obama defied his oath of office to faithfully enforce federal law. "The president should be impeached for this," he added.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pope Fires Board of Vatican Financial Watchdog; Replaces Vatican Board with 4 Financial Experts

Pope Francis sacked the five-man board of the Vatican's financial watchdog -- all Italians -- today (June 5, 2014) in the latest move to break with an old guard associated with a stigmatic past under his predecessor, according to the Reuters website.

The pope named four experts from Switzerland, Singapore, the United States, and Italy to replace them on the board of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), the Holy See's internal regulatory office.

All five outgoing members were Italians who had been expected to serve five-year terms ending in 2016 and were laymen associated with the Vatican's discredited financial old guard.

Reformers inside the Vatican had been pushing for the pope -- who already has taken a series of steps to clean up Vatican finances -- to appoint professionals with an international background to work with Rene Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer who heads the AIF and who has been pushing for change.

Assad Is Re-Elected President of Syria for 7 Years; Wins 88% of Vote Despite 3-Yr. War to Oust Him

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been re-elected in a landslide, officials said yesterday, capturing another seven-year term in the middle of a bloody three-year-old civil war against his rule that has resulted in over 160,000 deaths and devastated the country, The Guardian website reports today (June 5, 2014).

Assad garnered 88.7 percent of the votes. His two challengers, Hassan al-Nouri and Maher Hajjar, won 4.3 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.

After the results were released, Damascus erupted into a thunderous, rolling clap of celebratory gunfire that appeared to include heavy weaponry.

Assad's victory was a foregone conclusion, despite the presence of other candidates on the ballot for the first time in decades. Voting was held only in government-controlled areas, excluding huge tracks of northern and eastern Syria that are in rebel hands. The opposition and its western allies -- including the United States -- have denounced the election as a farce.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl May Face Prosecution Charges; Fellow Soldiers Say He Quit Unit for "a New Life"

U.S. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl -- recently freed after being held by the Taliban for five years -- may still be disciplined if the army finds evidence of misconduct, according to the military's top officer, the France 24 website reports today (June 4, 2014).

General Martin Dempsey -- chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- was speaking after claims from members of Bergdahl's unit that he had been captured after abandoning his post.

A former military official familiar with the situation said Bergdahl intentionally slipped away from his base near the Afghan border with Pakistan, leaving a note saying he had become disillusioned with the army and the war, and was going "to start a new life."

"Our army's leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred," Gen. Dempsey said.

Navy Rejects 1st Humanist Applicant for Chaplain; Retired Chaplain: "Chaplains Are People of Faith"

After the Army recently permitted "humanist" (non-believer) as a religious preference, many hoped a humanist chaplain might follow, the Religion News website reports today (June 4, 2014).

But the Navy last week rejected the application of Jason Heap, a humanist, for the position of chaplain, a Navy official familiar with the case confirmed. Details of the Navy's decision were not revealed due to privacy concerns.

Roy Speckhardt -- executive director of the American Humanist Association -- called for a reversal of the decision. "Prejudice is not an American value," he said.

On the other hand, the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty welcomed the decision. "Chaplains, historically and by definition, are people of faith," said retired reserve Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. "You can't have an 'atheist chaplain' any more than you can have a 'tiny giant' or a 'poor millionaire.'"

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bartholomew to Attend Peace Meeting at Vatican; Invited to Mideast Prayer for Peace by the Pope

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew will be present at the Middle East prayer for peace called by Pope Francis at the Vatican this Sunday (June 8), the Vatican Insider website reports today (June 3, 2014).

Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will also be attending the prayer for peace meeting.

Pope Francis invited Patriarch Bartholomew during the meeting held at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The Patriarch of Constantinople accepted the invitation.

The presence of the Successor of the Apostle Andrew next to the Successor of the Apostle Peter, on the occasion of the arrival of the Israeli and Palestinian presidents at the Vatican, is an important sign of the commitment of Christians for Peace in the Holy Land. It testifies that the "Sister" Churches intend to continue along this path undertaken in Jerusalem.

Top 10 Anti-Christian Countries in Hall of Shame; Nigeria Named No. 1 on World Watch Violence List

The World Watch List (WWL) Research team of Open Doors International has released a Top 10 Violence List of countries in which Christians have experienced the most violent incidents for their faith in Jesus Christ, the Christian Newswire website reports today (June 3, 2014).

The World Watch Top 10 Violence List -- which is based on persecution incidents between November 1, 2012 and March 31, 2014 -- is topped by Nigeria.

The other nine nations -- in order of the most violent -- are: Syria, Egypt, Central African Republic (CAR), Mexico, Pakistan, Colombia, India, Kenya, and Iraq.

In all countries where Christians are persecuted, researchers recorded 3,641 churches and Christian properties destroyed and 13,120 other forms of violence against Christians such as beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests, and forced marriages.

Monday, June 2, 2014

More Than 40 Feared Dead in Nigerian Explosion; Islamic Group Boko Haram Believed to Be Culprit

Authorities say an explosion in the northeastern Nigerian town of Mubi yesterday left at least 14 people dead, but locals say that number could grow to more than 40, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (June 2, 2014).

David Dauda -- who witnessed the blast -- said he saw at least 30 bodies following the explosion.

"The blast occurred shortly after people are dispersing from a football playing ground. People gathered there to watch a football competition and just few minutes after soldiers patrol vehicle left the place then we heard a blast," Dauda said.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but the extremist Islamic group Boko Haram is suspected to be behind the violence.

Romania Convicts 850 of Corruption in 12 Months; Ministers, Mayors, Judges Among Those Convicted

Romania's Anti-Corruption Department said in its latest progress report that 850 people -- including ministers, lawmakers, mayors, judges, and prosecutors -- were convicted of corruption over the past 12 months, the Balkan Insight website reports today (June 2, 2014).

Among those convicted in Romania -- the most corrupt country in all of Europe -- were four ministers or ex-ministers and five members of parliament. Former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase was convicted for a second time in January.

Eleven mayors, five judges, and three state prosecutors were also convicted, according to the  Anti-Corruption Department.

Some 4,200 criminal investigations were registered at the Anti-Corruption Department between May 15, 2013 and May 15, 2014, the report said. Most of the cases involved bribery, trading in influence, tax evasion, and fraud related to European Union funds. The high number of convictions is a sign of an increased determination of the judiciary to tackle graft, experts say.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Orth. Rel. Leaders Consecrate Church in Albania; Patriarch Bartholomew Leads Tirana Consecration

Leaders of Greek Orthodox churches in Europe and Asia consecrated the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral in Tirana -- the capital of Albania -- today (June 1, 2014), the Greek Reporter website reports.

The consecration service -- a major event for all Orthodox Christian churches -- was led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Also taking part in the service were the patriarchs of Jerusalem and Serbia, the archbishops of Cyprus, Athens, Warsaw, and Tirana, as well as representatives of the Patriarchs of Moscow, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Syria.

The complex of the new Resurrection of Christ Cathedral -- situated in downtown Tirana -- includes the Chapel of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, a bell tower, and the Cathedral center that symbolizes the rebirth of the Autocephalous (self-governing) Albanian Orthodox Church.

Lawmakers:Obama's Terrorist Deal Violated Law; Obama Says Pact Due to "Unique Circumstances"

Two Republican lawmakers -- who hold high-ranking positions in Congressional Armed Services Committees -- have accused President Barack Obama of breaking the law by approving the release of five Afghan terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for a U.S. soldier believed held by Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan for five years, the Yahoo News website reports today (June 1, 2014).

The White House agreed that it broke the law, but cited "unique and exigent circumstances" as justification for doing so.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, of Hailey, Idaho, was handed over to U.S. special operations forces by the Taliban. In return, five Afghans -- who were held at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba -- were released to the custody of the government of Qatar which served as a go-between in negotiations for the trade.

Rep. Howard McKeon of California -- Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee -- and Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that Obama is required by law to notify Congress 30 days before any terrorists are transferred from the U.S. facility. They added that Obama also is required to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially lessened.

Philly Archdiocese to Merge 29 Parishes into 13; Due to Declines in Church Attendance, Cath. Pop.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced today (June 1, 2014) that 29 parishes will be merged into a total of 13 parishes in Philadelphia and its suburbs, The Blaze website reports.

The closures reflect the latest efforts to cut costs at the archdiocese by closing schools and parishes and selling off real estate.

The archdiocese cited shifting Catholic populations, high density of parishes in small areas, and declines in Mass attendance and the number of available priests.

The announcement said parishioners will attend daily and Sunday Mass at the church of the new parish, with the old parish churches becoming worship sites.